March On! Texas

Category: Healthcare

Why I march on Texas

By Kevin Hopper

To understand why I march on Texas, you may need to know a little about me. Born and raised in Texas, I attended public Texas schools and colleges. Being the son of a Republican Air Force officer and a Democrat teacher, I understand that the issues that face this state are not partisan, they’re not black or white, and they’re not blue or red. But the truth is we live in a climate where politicians drive a wedge between neighbors and families in the interest of their own personal gain. I march on Texas because I realize the time is now to organize and take action.

 

After graduating from the University of North Texas, I moved to New York to pursue a career as a (struggling) freelancer. When I turned 26, I aged out of my parents’ healthcare. At the time, I was working multiple jobs and struggling just to stay afloat. So when I went to healtchare.gov to find coverage, I was shocked and relieved to find that I qualified for Medicaid. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but coming from a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, I had never seen the system work like it was supposed to. Being young and healthy, I never had to use my Medicaid, but knowing that I was covered in case of an emergency gave me and my parents great peace of mind.

 

Fast forward a couple years, I move back to Texas to pursue a Teacher’s Certification and a career as a Texas public school teacher. Having lost my status as a Texas resident, I spent my first year biding my time until I qualified for in-state tuition. During this time, my financial stability remained about the same as it was in New York (not stable at all), but one thing did change: I lost healthcare coverage.

 

Back on healthcare.gov, I looked up my options for health-insurance providers available to me. Because I lived in Texas, I no longer qualified for Medicaid. And without subsidies, the options available to me here were just not feasible to fit into my budget. Even with the minimum coverage, A $350 monthly premium and a $5000 deductible meant that I was too poor to have healthcare in the State of Texas. My healthcare plan became the emergency room, and there was nothing I could do about it.

 

What I saw on that page was not the failure of the Affordable Care Act, but the outcome of disruptive policies by Texas’ politicians who are willing to destabilize the lives of their own constituents in order to win a rhetorical game for their own gain in the national political theater.

 

When I hear Texans and Texas business owners saying the Affordable Care Act is broken, I can’t help but think to myself, ‘that’s because those in power in this state won’t let it work the way it was designed’. Yes, ACA is not perfect, but the truth has been distorted by disruptive Tea Party politics and self-interested politicians seeking to dismantle public interest, privatize power, and sell our state to corporate oligarchs.

 

I march on Texas because I believe in the public interest. I march on Texas because I believe we are all less free when oligarchs can dismantle our democratically created institutions against the will and interest of the people. And I march on Texas because the time is now to bring about the change we need in this state to ensure all Texans have access to preventative healthcare and are provided for when they are sick or in need of medicine.

Um, I Agree With Ted Cruz?

Um, I Agree With Ted Cruz?

At March On Texas we pretty much never agree with anything Senator Ted Cruz says or does.  Until now.

Senator Cruz is one of the reasons why Mitch McConnell pulled the Republican version of the healthcare bill from the floor without taking a vote but is trying to put it up for a vote by Friday.  The senate needs 50 votes to repeal and replace Obamacare, meaning only two Republicans could vote against it, and Senator Cruz was one who flat out said no.

Yay!

Now granted, the reasons why he said no (the bill was too generous) versus why we said no (22 million people would lose their coverage, Medicaid would be cut – kicking out old people from nursing homes and pregnant women from prenatal care, the bill would raise premiums up to five times higher than the youngest for adults in their 50’s and 60’s, it tries to dismantle Planned Parenthood and while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and insurance companies.)

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows and this is one of those times.  So let’s be supportive to Senator Ted Cruz and continue to tell him to vote NO for the repeal and replace bill.

In case you needed some facts (real ones, not the alternative kind) here are some highlights of what the Republican bills would do, and how it would potentially affect Texans:

  • CBO estimates 22 million people would lose their healthcare coverage.  That includes 2.6 million Texans with the number of uninsured Texans increasing by 58% by 2019.
  • Women could be charged more for insurance just for being women.  Prior to Obamacare, women in Texas were charged as much as 56% more than men for the same coverage.
  • Pre-existing conditions would either be decided directly by the states (House bill) or would allow states to request the ability to reduce essential coverage, meaning that the people who need that coverage would have to pay substantially more and insurance companies could impose lifetime caps on what they have to pay (Senate bill).
  • The oldest adults (ages 50 – 64) can be charged five times more for insurance.
  • Medicaid (insurance for the poor, disabled, kids and pregnant women) would be cut off from federal funding starting in 2020.  Approximately 4.7 million Texans, about 16% of the state’s population, rely on Medicaid for their health insurance.  The majority of Medicaid funding goes to people with disabilities.  Under this plan these services will likely be cut.
  • A one year block would be placed on Planned Parenthood reimbursement, which CBO estimates 15% of women would lose access to family planning services increasing the birth rate.  (And remember that Medicaid for the poor would also be cut, which includes care for pregnant women and newborns, and women could be charged more for insurance.)
  • If you are wealthy, according to CBO you get $563 billion in tax cuts over 10 years under the Senate bill, while the poor, pregnant, sick, elderly and disabled pay higher health costs for worse coverage.

For more information, you can read the full articles used to reference these numbers:  Who Wins, Who Loses With Senate Healthcare Bill and Defending Healthcare in 2017, What is at Stake for Texas?

The time to act is now.  This bill is set to go back to the floor this Friday.  Call Senator Cruz and pressure him to continue to vote no.  Our reasons may be different but a no vote from him will ultimately benefit Texas families.

 

My Obamacare Story

My Obamacare Story

Dear Senator Cornyn:

You sent out a newsletter requesting stories about how Obamacare affected us and our family.  Let me start by telling you what life was like before Obamacare.

huffingtonpost

My daughter was born in June 2007, a strong and beautiful little girl.  The first time we took her to the hospital was that October.  There was a fire burning in our town, matched only but the heat of her fever.  While others were moving towards cleaner air we headed into the smoky clouds where the hospital was located.

It ended up being a urinary tract infection and after the doctor gave her some antibiotics we went home.  But something wasn’t right.

Every six weeks or so she got a new infection, or was it the same one?  Her pediatrician didn’t know.  Each time there was the 102 degree fever, the catheter inserted inside her tiny body for a sample as she screamed in agony and I had to watch helplessly.

Have you ever had to hold a child – your child – when she’s in pain?  As tears stream down her perfect cheeks and she looks at you, as though questioning why you can’t fix it?  Have you ever had to hold your baby still as they strap her limbs down so she can’t twist as a giant machine x-rays her?  I hope you haven’t, because it’s terrifying.

During this time I was offered a dream job that would have paid me $10,000 more in base salary.  I turned it down.  Do you know why?  Because we didn’t know what was causing these infections.  We didn’t know if she had pre-existing conditions.  We couldn’t risk the six month lapse in health insurance before the benefits in the new job would kick in.

I also began to worry about my current job because I had to take off a lot of time from work to take her to doctor appointments.

When your baby is sick it’s hard to concentrate.  There was a budget presentation I had to give and as I gathered up my papers a framed photo of my baby in her pink onesie giggling caught my eye.

I began sobbing, and ran into the ladies room, shaking with fear.  Her test at the Children’s Hospital was the next day and I was petrified.  Would she be ok?  If she wasn’t, what if the insurance said this was a pre-existing condition?  How would I pay for her care?  Would I ever be able to leave this job for a better one?

Have you ever felt trapped before?  That’s what it felt like.  Like there was no air, just fear.  I had a job with healthcare but life before Obamacare meant insurance companies made the rules and, bottom line, they didn’t care about my baby; they cared about their own corporate bottom line.  It was sick and I do mean that in ever sense of the word.

We were lucky.  My daughter was fine.  But what about all the other babies who aren’t?  We are the richest nation in the world and no parent should worry about whether or not their baby will get treatment.  Having a child who is sick is gut wrenching enough, why should we go back to the days when a pre-existing condition could bankrupt you as well, just so some insurance CEO gets a multi-million dollar bonus?

And now let me tell you another story, about life after Obamacare, since you asked how it affects my family.

AARP

My brother works two jobs.  He is an adjunct professor of history at a community college and was also a bank teller at the time.  Even though he worked two jobs they both made sure that his hours were kept below a certain limit so they wouldn’t have to pay for medical benefits.

When Obamacare passed he went to the doctor for the first time in almost a decade to get a physical, not because he thought there was anything wrong.  The doctor told him it was a wonder he was still alive.  He had diabetes, high blood pressure and rickets and was essentially a walking heart attack ready to happen.  Through medicine, lifestyle changes and access to healthcare my brother is alive today.

The positive impact of Obamacare doesn’t stop there.

I have pre-existing conditions (cancer) and my husband is in his fifties and we can rest easy knowing that we won’t be priced out of the market.  I’m no longer held hostage to a job for the medical benefits because I can afford to pay for them on my own.

I’ve lived through the nightmare of healthcare before Obamacare was in place and I’ve felt the relief of being on an Obamacare silver plan (which actually cost us less money than paying for our own coverage.)

According to the AARP under the proposed AHCA plan my husband’s insurance rates could increase five times higher and if Texas decides to get rid of essential benefits I can only imagine the cost to my family to have to go into a high risk pool.

The government shouldn’t punish its citizens for getting sick or growing older, or like millions of Americans having pre-existing conditions.

If you pass the AHCA it will directly impact me, my immediate family and my extended family.  Societies are judged not by how they treat the wealthy and the powerful but by how they care for the most vulnerable among us.

And if it were your baby hot with fever, tears spilling down her face (and your own) would you care one iota about lining insurance executives pockets or would you want to know that doctors would do absolutely everything possible to save her life, regardless of pre-existing conditions?

Answer honestly.  Let us keep our healthcare.

Terrilynn Quick and the Uterus Flag Project:  Crafting Women’s Health Awareness

Terrilynn Quick and the Uterus Flag Project: Crafting Women’s Health Awareness

Thursday the House of Representatives narrowly passed a measure to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and the Huffington Post referred to the proposed bill as a “’Coordinated Attack’ on Women’s Health Care.” While this round of legislation appears particularly harmful to women, the state of women’s health services have been at the mercy of men and a male-dominated medical profession for too long.

Artist activist Terrilynn Quick recognized this problem and began to address it through her work.   She started the Uterus Flag Project in 2010, which is an investigation into the socio-political concerns around women’s health issues, looking specifically at the overuse and misuse of hysterectomies in America. The project serves as a beginning point of conversation for women who are often silent about their health concerns and too trusting of doctors, who may recommend a hysterectomy without considering other options or a woman’s long term health plan.

The project is based on the idea of the sit and stitch, which is grounded in the feminist ideals of “sharing, conversation, consciousness raising, and craft.” It’s a time for women to create but to also engage with each other about their health concerns and other issues that women face in society today. Women have a long history of this type of collaboration but have not engaged in hand-work like this as much in the late 20th and early 21st centuries as in the past. The Uterus Flag Project is just one attempt at bringing this type of collaborative coordination among women back.

Image courtesy of Terrilynn Quick

Like all craftivism, it is yet another way of giving a voice—both visually and through testimonies of participants—to issues of social justice. In this case by bringing awareness to unnecessary hysterectomies, especially for women who are unaware of the options available besides uterus removal. About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the United States and it is the second most common surgery performed on women of childbearing age (cesarean sections are the first.) By the age of 60, more than one third of all women have had some form of a hysterectomy.

While some hysterectomies are necessary, such as with invasive cancer, many are not, and the surgery carries risks that many women are not made aware of, such as damage to other organs such as the urinary tract or bowel, that can cause long-term complications. Additionally, young women who have hysterectomies are at an increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, and early menopause. The surgeries have also been associated with serious urinary issues, sexual dysfunction, and depression.*

Thoughtful consideration and conversations should be engaged in prior to a woman’s consenting to a hysterectomy. Many are avoidable, especially if the condition is not causing any problematic symptoms. Learn more about the risks and alternatives to hysterectomies at the National Women’s Health Network.

Find more images of the Uterus Flag Project at www.howtocopewithtrump.com

*https://www.nwhn.org/hysterectomy/

Learn more about the Uterus Flag Project here and here.

Check out this video about the uterus flag project.

There’s Something Very Wrong with this Picture

There’s Something Very Wrong with this Picture

Every day we turn on the news it seems there’s yet another picture full of middle aged white men sitting at a table writing legislation against women:

  • Proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood
  • New anti-choice bills introduced under the charade as being for the health of the woman
  • The proposed AHCA even tried to take away coverage for birth control, pregnant moms and babies

Are you tired of not seeing a single woman at the table?  Literally…

Mike Pence/Twitter

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Your Actions are Creating Change!

Your Actions are Creating Change!

My Friday just got a little bit brighter when I saw the GOP healthcare bill got tabled. Yay!

The AHCA would have increased premiums, eliminated essential coverage for maternity care (?!?), kicked 24 million people off of their healthcare plans, given a huge tax credit to millionaires and billionaires (who don’t need it), and added an age tax to our senior citizens.  Thank God the Republicans couldn’t pull in the votes!

A big chunk of the reason the repeal and replace bill couldn’t be done was because 25 or so members of the Freedom Caucus felt the bill didn’t go far enough towards eliminating costs and benefits.

But it wasn’t just the extreme right who was against this bill; moderate Republicans were against it too. Why?

Because we are making an impact.

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Call Congress About the Healthcare Age Tax

Call Congress About the Healthcare Age Tax

Today is the big day that congress is trying to push through the repeal and replace bill, also known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

I just contacted my congressman’s office asking him to vote NO and I hope you will do the same.  And here’s why.

It’s a bad deal.  Even the Republicans don’t like it, which is why there’s so much commotion today.  Key problems:

  • People will lose their insurance.  24 million fewer insured over the next ten years
  • The poorest people get impacted the most.  Medicaid (helping the poorest Americans) cut by $880 billion
  • The rich get richer.  AHCA gives an $883 billion tax cut, $274 billion to the richest 2%

Source: CBO: American Health Care Act

But wait, there’s more.

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